Recently I heard from someone opposed to the war in Ukraine. Their reasons sounded screwy to me, so I decided to fact-check what they said.
It just took me a few minutes of Googling to debunk virtually all of their objections to the Ukraine war, which in my opinion, is totally justified -- since it was Putin, the autocratic leader of Russia, who invaded Ukraine about a year ago for no good reason.
The United States, the European Union, and other allies are strong backers of the democratically-elected government of Ukraine against Putin's attempt to rekindle the bad old days of World War II, the last time a sovereign European nation was invaded by another country seeking to expand its territory.
Below, in italics, is what the person who messaged me said. My debunking of those conspiracy theories is in regular type.
It’s a conspiracy with mainstream crossover: The United States bankrolled the bloody political uprising in Ukraine.
We saw the claim pop up recently in a story on RT (the Russian-funded English language cable network), and found lots of talk about it on reddit, Facebook and other websites.
The claims have the same basic structure. While President Barack Obama publicly said Ukrainians have the right to determine their own future, the U.S. government pumped $5 billion into the country to promote regime change.
In a Facebook meme, someone put it this way:
Obama "spends $5 billion paying Ukrainians to riot and dismantle their democratically elected government."
So is there any truth to this claim? PunditFact dove in.
Contrary to claims, the United States did not spend $5 billion to incite the rebellion in Ukraine.
That’s a distorted understanding of remarks given by a State Department official. She was referring to money spent on democracy-building programs in Ukraine since it broke off from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Politifact also examined this claim. Here's some excerpts from their Mostly False conclusion.
Two days before Russia invaded Ukraine with an assault that intelligence officials had warned was coming, conservative commentator Candace Owens insisted that the U.S. was "at fault."
"NATO (under direction from the United States) is violating previous agreements and expanding eastward," Owens said in the Feb. 22 tweet, which directed her more than 3 million followers to remarks from Russian President Vladimir Putin that she said showed "what’s actually going on."
Owens’ comment echoed a grievance claimed by Putin and other Russian leaders regarding the West’s negotiations with the Soviet Union after the Cold War.
The subject of the grievance is whether the U.S. and its Western allies promised the Soviet Union during negotiations over the reunification of Germany that they would not allow NATO to expand its membership east of the Cold War border.
Owens said, "NATO (under direction from the United States) is violating previous agreements and expanding eastward."
There is an ongoing historical debate over comments that Western leaders, including Baker, made during post-Cold War negotiations, and whether what they said amounted to assurances that NATO would refrain from welcoming in countries closer to modern-day Russia.
But NATO as an organization made no such pledge, and the formal agreement signed at the end of those negotiations said nothing about the alliance not expanding eastward.
We rate this claim Mostly False.
On Feb. 8, 2023, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh published on Substack a theoretically blockbuster revelation: A covert U.S. military operation in June 2022 was responsible for the September 2022 destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines that run natural gas from Russia to Germany. The claim has been met with skepticism by other journalists, denials from U.S. government officials, and credulous promotion in Russia.
In this article, Snopes explores the controversy, separating the factual background in Hersh's reporting that provides an air of plausibility to his blockbuster claims from the anonymously sourced assertions of a single person that hold — however weakly — those claims together. By email, we asked Hersh to respond to criticism that his article's claims are based on a single source. We also asked if any undisclosed parties verified or vetted any of that source's assertions as part of his reporting. In response, he told Snopes, "I protect my sources."
...The Bottom Line
This story, when deconstructed, is merely a pile of purported second-hand information allegedly collected by someone connected in some unknown way to deliberations of a highly secret, multi-agency task force. Such a story falls prey to the same criticisms of other more recent work published by Hersh, which has relied on similarly questionable anonymous sources.
If the U.S. did conspire to destroy the Nord Stream pipeline, Hersh's reporting has not proved that case. Hersh has, instead, made a very successful blog post that essentially transcribes a compelling story someone unknown to the general public told him.
Hersh was asked by the Russian news agency TASS about the identity of his source. He told them that, "It's a person, who, it seems, knows a lot about what's going on."
It's true that the United States is having new Abrams tanks built to send to Ukraine, rather than sending tanks from our existing inventory. A New York Post story says this is because the United States doesn't have enough excess tanks. The larger question is whether the Ukraine war is driving increased American defense spending.
A New York Times story says that while the Ukraine war is a factor, the bipartisan push to increase our defense spending also stems from longer term concerns about threats from Russia and China.
The prospect of growing military threats from both China and Russia is driving bipartisan support for a surge in Pentagon spending, setting up another potential boom for weapons makers that is likely to extend beyond the war in Ukraine.
...Even more orders are coming in to military contractors from U.S. allies in Europe and Asia, as they too have concluded they must do more to arm themselves against rising global threats. Japan moved this month to double its spending on defense over the next five years, putting aside a pacifist stand it has largely maintained since 1945.